QUITO TIPS AND TRAVEL ADVICE
We’ve loved our time travelling around Ecuador and although we didn’t visit the Galapagas, we don’t regret it in the slightest.
If you’re backpacking on a budget, there’s a million other things to keep you entertained, and I’m using this post to share a few of my thoughts on touring the country!
First stop for us was Quito.
Quito is a city built in a volcanic crater and, beautiful as it is, this means a lot of hills. So prepare for steps and uphill struggles everywhere. The upside to this is that the view points are stunning; and we can vouch that the Telephonica cable cart up to the top of the city is a must do. It’s about $10 and well worth the view of the city. Same goes for climbing the bell tower at the Basicalla – about $3 and a load of steps, but absolutely phenomenal.
We decided to skip most museums and galleries given our short time frame for our stay in the city, but another must do is visiting the Middle of the World museum. We went there basically wanting the photo opp standing on both sides of the equator, but the tour guide had us doing all kinds of experiments and gravity games that made the trip one of the most entertaining from our time in Quito. Again, it cost about $10 per person for the trip, but I felt it was reasonable.
We also spent about a day taking a taxi tour of the city which worked out at $25 per person and basically meant that we had a personal chauffeur for the day. It was super handy for getting to see all the sights in one go and ended up far better value overall than a hop on hop off tour.
One of the biggest attractions for us while we stayed in Quito was the hot springs of Papallacta. We’d read up on how luxurious the spa was and felt that for $100 each, it was a treat worth indulging in. But we never did make it to the Papallacta spa we set out for. Neither myself nor my boyfriend speak a word of Spanish, so we were relying entirely on charades and directions from the local tourist office to get us there. It would’ve worked too, except for the one not so obvious glitch – there’s three different springs that people visit in Papallacta. We had three different sets of directions. To cut a long story short, we ended up lost on a highway after getting the wrong stop and ultimately ended up landing in hot springs used by locals, with not a single tourist bar us in sight. We actually ended up having a great time and between transport (buses and taxis) and the entrance fee, we paid about $10 each, not the $100 expected. In hindsight, I’d say you should book the trip in advance with a tour company, but if you’re really strapped for cash and don’t want to miss out, the local hot springs are still relaxing and surrounded by equally breathtaking views.
Another attraction we wanted to do but didn’t have time was Cotapaxi, a dormant volcano on the outskirts of Quito. Unless you’re an experienced trekker and have come equipped for a harsh climb, you’ll probably just want to do the lagoon and visitor centre tour. We heard from a few of our fellow travellers that it’s a great tour and not too dear.
In terms of accommodation, we stayed in Jumbo Lodgings followed by Colonial House Hostel followed by Hotel Eugenia. The first two cost us about $24 for a double room with breakfast per night. I can’t speak highly enough of the staff we met in each place and the beds, showers, WiFi, etc were all fine. I’d picked accommodations based on their ratings on Hostelworld.com and TripAdvisor, so I knew we were getting the best available. That said, we found that both lacked a real backpacker presence and were a bit on the quiet side, but I’ve been told most hostels in Quito are similar at this time of year.
Hotel Eugenia however was perhaps one of the nicest hotels in the city. We moved completely away from Old Town and used this as our base for New Town. We only stayed there one night and felt incredibly underdressed landing in to the reception in our hiking boots and trekking shorts! This hotel costs about $70 a night, but the breakfast, staff, facilities and rooms are second to none in Quito. It’s a perfect base for clubbing and seeing New Town and a quick walk from restaurants, parks and all kinds of supermarkets.
In terms of tips, all I can really say is ask your hotel/hotel staff for help organising local tours, you’ll get bargain adventures that you’d otherwise spend a bomb for. Second, taxis are dirt cheap, so if you can’t figure out how to get back via buses ( we found them a tad confusing) just hop in one of the many, many yellow taxis. It cost us about $3 to go half across the city. Finally, pack a load of suncream and don’t expect the weather forecast to be in any way accurate. I was predicting non stop rain and packed a load of rain gear. I didn’t use it once and ended up almost getting quite burnt from a day of rambling the city.
It’s such a gorgeous city with so much to do, so I’d recommend taking at least three days and seeing as much of it as you can. It’s worth it!